Part III- Teams Who Get Stuff Done

Written By Mindy McCutcheon
Posted on

Ok, we’re to Part III of this journey. I’ve explored the stages of relationships and the dysfunctions we can often find ourselves a part of. Now it’s time to shift gears and chat about characteristics of teams who get 'er done. Lencioni's 'Characteristics of High Performing Teams' include: 

1. Teams that are comfortable asking for help, admitting mistakes/limitations, and take risks offering feedback

This falls into the Trust Tree. We are far less likely to ask for help, own our mistakes, or give/receive feedback if we feel we’ll be attacked. What I love about my Zaengle team is that it’s a really supportive bunch of folks. There’s a general sense of “I’ve got your back”, full of constructive feedback and quickly owning our oopsies. This synergy allows for us to compliment each other’s weaker areas. I love when my team takes the opportunity to say “hey, can we hop on a call and walk through this flow, I feel like I’m missing something”. Feeling like my opinion is valued makes me feel warm and fuzzy. In addition, these moments are important for a remote team since we don’t get to just peak over someone’s shoulder each day.

On the same hand, if there’s something to be owned, you better damn well own it. It’s just like when you were a kid and your parents discovered boogers in the carpet. Just own the fact that you put them there, feel like an idiot, and learn from your mistake. There’s no sense in lying about it. Your parents aren’t idiots. They know you did it (you’re an only child for Pete’s sake!).

2. Teams who tap into one another's skills and experiences

I think these two really play into each other. Team members must be willing to ask for help from one another, especially when faced with looming deadlines. A team stuck in a power struggle will fail miserably at this. Your lead dev might feel the pressure to pull all nighters leading up to a launch. He’s burning his matches, his code is likely suffering, and his resentment grows. Sure, he may feel like it’s his responsibility to work through the task alone, but seriously, just ask for help. As a PM, I like to hit budgets and milestones, absolutely. What I don’t like is having my team members turn into zombies. If you need extra hands, it’s best to communicate ASAP so we can bring in a freelancer or shuffle other team members onto the project. We’re a team and a good one won’t ever leave their man hangin’.

If there’s a similar problem you’ve experienced somewhere else, share how you solved it- good or bad! Everything is a learning experience, so it will help your current team regardless.

3. Team that avoid wasting time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over again because of lack of buy-in

How often do you find yourself talking in circles or complaining after a client call. Yeah, sometimes they’re a pain in the butt, however now you’re just wasting precious time by complaining about the pain in the butt client. Either we need to stand up to them and tell them what they want is out of scope or swallow our pride and realize it was our own doing that put us in the situation. Whining for half an hour isn’t going to solve the problem. Now it’s been two hours of time wasted because four of you sat around for 30 minute to accomplish nothing. Get to work solving the problem! Strong teams have a moment of “that sucks” and dive in together. How are we going to divvy this up, who wants to talk to the client, what resources can we bring in? Divide and conquer, damnit!

4. Team who make higher quality decisions and accomplish more in less time with fewer resources

At Zaengle, we are big on the “Be Nice, Do Good” for a reason. It shows in our work. Whenever there’s a time where we’re left questioning our project, it always circles back to BNDG. We take our work seriously and produce the highest quality visual designs, UX flows, or code we know we’re capable of. Even if it means going the extra mile for our client. Even if a project is going poorly and we could cut corners to make life a little easier. NOPE. Not an option. We aren’t here to burn bridges. We aren’t willing to be a doormat for a client, but we are willing to make good, strong decisions together to create a better experience for them.

5. Team who put critical topics on the table and have lively meetings

Luckily my Zaengle team is pretty rad, so we can avoid a lot of crap conversations. However, when it does arise, we face it head on. Budget tight? Short runway? Ok, let’s talk about it so we can solve it. That’s what I think is so great about working with Phil and Jason. We collectively address issues instead of leaving Phil to stew over it alone, like many stressful founders. I’m sure there’s plenty they still shield me from, but I feel they trust my experience and value my input. This aspect is huge as a PM and Operations person. I can’t do my job unless I have all the information.

As for lively meetings, for a team who is all remote, I’d say we have quite a bit of fun together. I can only imagine the liveliness that will ensue when we all get together for our next Zaengle Con. Throw copious amounts of whiskey in there and it’s safe to say we’ll be a happenin’ bunch.

6. Team who align the group around common objectives

One of the things that stood out most when I applied to Zaengle was the questions we were asked to answer. It didn’t require a vanilla cover letter and cookie cutter resume. We were asked a series of questions, one being “What are you passionate about?”. This is huge for teams. Not because Zaengle expects us all to be passionate about the same things. Quite the opposite! I think it’s critical to see that people have a passion- ANYTHING! You want a team that is multidimensional because it makes you more well rounded. Ultimately, the common objective at Zaengle is our Be Nice, Do Good motto. It doesn’t matter what your passion is. What matters is that you take BNDG into your life, in your own way. For me, that’s women’s empowerment (which is an entirely different post that would fire me up!). With all the #Metoo going on in the world, it’s become more important than ever for me personally to value the other women in my life.

7. Team who retain star employees

It’s a lot of work to onboard a new employee. It’s disruptive (in a positive way) to the team, but it’s expensive and time consuming. High turnover can indicate much deeper issues within a company. Sure, if someone is not serving you well, it’s best to solve that problem appropriately. However, if you have a rock star employee who begins veering off, it’s might be time for a chat. Maybe they’re struggling with something internally. Or maybe they are struggling with you. Showing your employees you value them fosters a positive environment that welcomes new challenges and creativity.

How not to retain a star employee? I once told a boss I was overwhelmed with what I had on my plate. I was spending all day every day running back and forth across town running silly errands and managing tasks way beyond the scope of my job. I realized I was failing miserably at everything.  I went to him with a suggestion of hiring a part time office assistant to delegate some of the less important tasks to. Thinking I was being self aware enough to communicate my limits, I was appalled when his response was “Well maybe we should make your job part-time and hourly or you need to be at least 30% billable”. WTF? My position is a support role and traditionally non-billable. It left me hurt, feeling undervalued, and destined for failure. A week later I had a new job.

This concludes my three part series on team dynamics. We’ve all had great experiences, just as we’ve all suffered great failures. Hopefully we're learning and growing from each of these; only then can you grow and reshape your future. 

A huge thanks to my pal @_thecolinwilson for the exciting topical chats, endless book recommendations, and being my go-to editor.